When you go to New York City, you expect to see great art. There are world-famous museums on every streetcorner, it seems, with paintings from all over the world.
Beauty courtesy of a sidewalk artist: a London plane tree.
One of the commonest street trees of New York City. It has this strange bark thing going on: the outer bark peels off to reveal the differently colored underlying layers of bark, in wild and weird patterns.
Platanus x acerifolia. What does the “x’” in the name stand for? London planes are hybrids, a cross (x, get it?) between two related species of trees, the American sycamore and the Oriental plane tree. Take a Platanus occidentalis and plant it next to a Platanus orientalis, and a whole new kind of tree results.
The hybridization makes for a very successful plant, ideal in its urban ecosystem. It’s more resistant to disease than the sycamore. It’s more cold-hardy than the oriental plane. And London planes have two qualities in particular that make them the perfect urbanites: they’re resistant to air pollution. And they can survive soil compaction, a highly useful quality when you have to deal with garbage trucks and millions, literally millions, of pedestrians pounding the pavement. Not to mention dogs…
Like cities, the London planes are diverse and beautiful in their diversity.